Preparing the project defence

During the first year, all doctoral students should prepare a proposal for a thesis to be defended before a committee. The purpose of this examination is to assess the student's ability to undertake original research at doctoral level. The thesis proposal is the first stage in the doctoral programme and one of the most important, as it structures the research for the coming years.

Doctoral students have only two opportunities to submit and defend their thesis proposals: the first in June (compulsory for first year full-time students) and the second in December (for those who fail the 'June paper').

Part-time students can submit the thesis project during the first two years (see here the Structure of the PhD Programme), but they are also expected to present by June. If they do not pass the 'June paper', they will have a second opportunity in December. 

The thesis proposal is a short monograph containing a clearly defined scientific goal and a plan for achieving it. Everything else in the proposal should demonstrate the student's competence and support the plausibility of the goal and plan. There is no set template or minimum length. We strongly advise students to consult with their supervisor, although we provide some guidelines below.

The project should be approximately 8,000 words (including footnotes and bibliography).


General Guidelines for Research Projects

 The thesis project should comprise the following sections:

  1. Introduction (explanation of the chosen topic; main objectives; relevance of the chosen topic and explanation of the main contributions to knowledge that the thesis could make).
  2. Research questions.
  3. State of the art (bibliographical review on the topic).
  4. Methodology
  5. Research plan (including an outline defining the different sections of the thesis or the relationship between possible articles).
  6. Calendar.
  7. Bibliography.

In the preparation of the project defence, the following points should be considered (results are not required): 1) aims; 2) research questions; 3) hypotheses; and 4) methodology.

In the case of some political theory dissertations, after consultation with the supervisor, the candidate should present the theoretical framework and the main argument(s) of the project instead of the hypotheses. In preparing the project defence, the following points should be considered: 1) aims; 2) research questions; 3) hypotheses (or, in the case of some political theory dissertations: theoretical framework and main arguments); and 4) methodology.


As a doctoral student, the work you produce in the first stage of your programme (thesis project) and in the final stage (thesis submission) will be checked using the Turnitin similarity report. The purpose of this is to check for any issues that may affect your progress or to address any accidental plagiarism or self-plagiarism.

How to avoid plagiarism and self-plagiarism

We consider plagiarism to be the use of someone else's words without referencing the source or including the information in quotation marks or a block quote; using someone else's ideas without referencing the source or copying papers written by other students. Self-plagiarism is also a real problem, in the sense of recycling your previous work as if it were totally original, in a context where a certain level of originality is essential. The key to avoiding this risk is the same as avoiding plagiarism of any kind. Be very careful to cite your own previous work when quoting or building on it. 



The deadline for delivering the projects and supervisors’ reports is two weeks before the defence day.  Thesis supervisors have to send the report to the administrative staff in charge of the doctorate program ([email protected]).

June paper (first call year 2023-2024):

  • May, 19: date of submission of manuscripts (uploaded in the 'aula global').
  • 4 and 5 June:  Public defence of thesis projects.

December paper (second call year 2023-24): to be announced from September 2024

Please note that dates are subject to change due to the availability of the members of the evaluation committee (these are only approximate dates). You will receive a confirmation e-mail with the final dates for the presentations.


Preparing for the presentation

  • The oral defence can be done in any of the three languages of the UPF: English, Catalan or Spanish.

  • The presentation is organized following the alphabetic order of the student’s family name.

  • Each PhD has fifteen minutes to defend his/her project in a public session.

  • Power-point presentations are strongly recommended.

  • After the presentation, the members of the committee make comments, ask questions or call for clarifications that the student has to answer in a satisfactory way. 


Doctoral Thesis Project Committee functions

Each student's project defence is assessed by a panel of judges. The role of the jury is to: (1) assess the feasibility of the project; (2) identify potential problems; and (3) provide alternative solutions to these problems.

The jury prepares a Committee report that includes an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the project, as well as specific recommendations for improving its implementation. The jury's recommendations must be responsible, realistic, feasible and constructive. The jury must not confine itself to pointing out weaknesses or offering criticism. It must suggest workable solutions or approaches to potential problems. If the Jury identifies serious problems, such as conflicts between a student and supervisor, or if it disagrees with the student or supervisor, the Jury will report such conflicts and seek the advice of the Doctoral Programme Committee.

Regulations of the Doctoral Thesis Project Committee

The student presents the dissertation project to the jury, which consists of 3 researchers. All three members must have a Ph.D. degree and recognised research experience. At least one of the three members of the committee will have an academic appointment at UPF, such as a senior faculty member, including ICREA, a research fellow (Ramón y Cajal, Marie Curie, etc.), a postdoc or an assistant professor.


Evaluation Committee

The members of the committee are the following:

Academic year 2023-24: 

  • Chair: John Palmer
  • Spokesperson 1:  Simone Schneider
  • Spokesperson 2: Miguel Beistegui
  • Substitute (1):  Verònica Benety-Martinez
  • Substitute (2): Lala Muradova

Defences are open to the public, so anyone in the Department and beyond is welcome to attend.